The Making of a Cheater

iStock_000016528694Large“Wrap him up!” the coach yelled. A phrase I would expect to hear at a youth football game, but on this day I was watching an 8U basketball game. Admittedly I do not have an abundance of basketball knowledge but I know that in basketball you cannot wrap your arms around the player you are guarding. I’ve seen our coaches instruct our players to keep their arms extended out to their side. I’ve seen referee call fouls when the defender gets a little too aggressive and wraps their hands around the offensive player. So why is the coach instructing his players to do just that, to “wrap him up?”

The answer to the why question is fairly simple. Following a play where the referee did not call a foul when the defender wrapped his arms around his offensive player, practically hugging him, the highly irritated youth coach apparently decided if the officials were not going call it, then they were going to do it. During a timeout the frustrated coach instructed all his players to wrap them up and passionately demonstrated what he meant.


Here’s a better question: is this coach teaching his players to cheat? Is he coaching up a team of cheaters? I’m certain it was not the coach’s intentions in the moment. I’m sure the coach would be just as animated in his denial of this claim that he is teaching his players to cheat. In fact I feel uneasy even throwing that question out there which is why I waited until the basketball season is over to publish this post. Those who know me know that I am very uncontroversial, however, I think this is a question that, at a minimum, deserves some reflection.

I say “deserves some reflection” because I realize the answer may not be as simple as the question. Some might even say that it’s not a fair question, and I might agree. That being said consider the above quote by Dr. Ron Quinn. Once our young people learn how important the game, of more specifically the win, is to you they will learn to cheat.

How much is a win worth to you? Is a win during an 8U basketball game worth the mixed messages it sends to our athletes?

For a deeper look into the topic check out this article by John O’Sullivan on the topic of cheating and gamesmanship.